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From The Merchant's Tale, lines 187-202:
January tells his friends he wants to marry
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Merchant's Tale
lines 203-256: January explains he wants a young wife


       "But o thyng warne I yow, my freendes deere,
I wol moon oold wyf han in no manere.
205She shal nat passe twenty yeer, certayn;
Oold fissh and yong flessh wolde I have ful fayn.
Bet is," quod he, "a pyk than a pykerel,
And bet than old boef is the tendre veel.
I wol no womman thritty yeer of age;
210It is but bene-straw and greet forage.
And eek thise olde wydwes, God it woot,
They konne so muchel craft on Wades boot,
So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,
That with hem sholde I nevere lyve in reste.
215For sondry scoles maken sotile clerkis;
Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is.
But certeynly, a yong thyng may men gye,
Right as men may warm wex with handes plye.
Wherfore I sey yow pleynly, in a clause,
220I wol noon oold wyf han right for this cause.
For if so were I hadde swich myschaunce,
That I in hire ne koude han no plesaunce,
Thanne sholde I lede my lyf in avoutrye,
And go streight to the devel, whan I dye.
225Ne children sholde I none upon hire geten;
Yet were me levere houndes hand me eten,
Than that myn heritage sholde falle
In straunge hand, and this I telle yow alle.
I dote nat, I woot the cause why
230Men sholde wedde, and forthermoore woot I,
Ther speketh many a man of mariage
That woot namoore of it than woot my page,
For whiche causes man sholde take a wyf.
If he ne may nat lyven chaast his lyf,
235Take hym a wyf with greet devocioun,
By cause of leveful procreacioun
Of children, to th'onour of God above,
And nat oonly for paramour or love;
And for they sholde leccherye eschue,
240And yelde hir dette whan that it is due;
Or for that ech of hem sholde helpen oother
In meschief, as a suster shal the brother;
And lyve in chastitee ful holily.
But sires, by youre leve, that am nat I.
245For, God be thanked! I dar make avaunt,
I feele my lymes stark and suffisaunt
To do al that a man bilongeth to;
I woot myselven best what I may do.
Though I be hoor, I fare as dooth a tree
250That blosmeth er that fruyt ywoxen bee;
And blosmy tree nys neither drye ne deed.
I feele me nowhere hoor but on myn heed;
Myn herte and alle my lymes been as grene
As laurer thurgh the yeer is for to sene.
255And syn that ye han herd al myn entente,
I prey yow to my wyl ye wole assente.
       "But of one thing I warn you, my friends dear,
I will not have an old wife coming here.
205She shan't have more than twenty years, that's plain;
Of old fish and young flesh I am full fain.
Better," said he, "a pike than pickerel;
And better than old beef is tender veal.
I'll have no woman thirty years of age,
210It is but bean-straw and such rough forage.
And these old widows, God knows that, afloat,
They know so much of spells when on Wade's boat,
And do such petty harm, when they think best,
That with one should I never live at rest.
215For several schools can make men clever clerks;
Woman in many schools learns clever works.
But certainly a young thing men may guide,
Just as warm wax may with one's hands be plied.
Wherefore I tell you plainly, in a clause,
220I will not have an old wife, for that cause.
For if it chanced I made that sad mistake
And never in her could my pleasure take,
My life I'd lead then in adultery
And go straight to the devil when I die.
225No children should I then on her beget;
Yet would I rather hounds my flesh should fret
Than that my heritage descend and fall
Into strange hands, and this I tell you all.
I dote not, and I know the reason why
230A man should marry, and furthermore know I
There speaks full many a man of all marriage
Who knows no more of it than knows my page,
Nor for what reasons man should take a wife.
If one may not live chastely all his life,
235Let him take wife whose quality he's known
For lawful procreation of his own
Blood children, to the honour of God above,
And not alone for passion or for love;
And because lechery they should eschew
240And do their family duty when it's due;
Or because each of them should help the other
In trouble, as a sister shall a brother;
And live in chastity full decently.
But, sirs, and by your leave, that is not I.
245For, God be thanked, I dare to make a vaunt,
I feel my limbs are strong and fit to jaunt
In doing all man's are expected to;
I know myself and know what I can do.
Though I am hoar, I fare as does a tree
250That blossoms before the fruit be grown; you see
A blooming tree is neither dry nor dead.
And I feel nowhere hoary but on head;
My heart and all my limbs are still as green
As laurel through the year is to be seen.
255And now that you have heard all my intent,
I pray that to my wish you will assent."




Next Next:
From The Merchant's Tale, lines 257-306:
January's brother Placebo agrees with him
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